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Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Big Chip Explosion

Chips, chips and more chips seem to be cropping up in more areas of the grocery store than just the snack food aisle.
Here are the straight answers to common questions that arise from this marketing bombardment:

 Q: How healthy are these veggie labeled chips?
A: Though you may see a bit more vitamins in the ingredient list of things such as veggie straws, when all is said and done, a chip is a chip - not a serving of vegetables.  Don't be taken in by healthy-term-marketing.  A chip is a chip even if it's dressed up like a veggie.

Q: Why all the new shapes and flavors and is there anything I should watch out for?
A: Novelty sells, but novelty isn't always an improvement when it comes to nutrition.  Bottom line - watch the length of the ingredient list and sodium content.  New flavors and shapes often end up with more preservatives, artificial flavors, colors and sodium.  The best chip is a simple chip.

Q: Are dessert chips healthier than regular savory chips?
A: The appearance of chips in the dessert scene is a little disturbing for one main reason - it is encouraging America's already out-of-control sweet tooth.  We don't need more processed foods. Try enjoying a bowl of juicy strawberries for dessert instead.

Q: Are cracker-chips a better choice than traditional chips?
A: Not necessarily.  Often, the longest ingredient labels are found on these cracker-chip-hybrids.  Personally, a cracker make better crackers and chips make better chips, and never the twain should meet.  For me it's kind of like a burger place trying to sell pizza.  But aside from the taste profile, there is often a lot more additives, more sodium more sugar, and less whole grain and fiber.  Stick with a whole grain cracker and a 3-4 ingredient chip.

Q: So, is it ever ok to have chips?

A: Yes! The key is serving size, frequency and overall balance of your diet.  If you have a very healthful diet (i.e. lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains and of water) an occasional serving of chips is a fine and satisfying thing.  Choose simple ingredient list chips, and keep your serving size to one open handful for large chips and a partially closed handful for smaller chips.  Its all about the serving size and balance of foods.  

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Love in a Bowl: Who, What and Why Soup

I thought I'd put together a soup-themed blog post in honor of homemade soup day.  As I started to think about the subject and what recipe links I'd add, I discovered an interesting common thread: every soup I thought of was tied to a specific person in my life that I love who had made that soup for me.  And February being the month of love and all, I decided that was just what the doctor ordered - a homemade soup love list.  Not only do I love the soups, but more importantly, I love the people in my life that make them.  And truly, what gives more comfort and demonstrates nurture and caring more than a bowl of homemade soup on a literally or metaphorically cold day?  Keep in mind that most soup-makers no longer need a recipe or have tweaked their recipes as they go along.  So I'll include a link to a close approximation and you can add your own signature tweaks.

So here it is, my list of soups I love and the people I love that make them:

  1. Hamburger Tomato Soup.  This is my Dad's signature soup.  His actually calls for homemade tomato juice that they grow and can themselves, but the picture looked pretty similar.  Growing up, my dad for the most part only cooked Saturday breakfasts and boned chicken for Sunday dinner.  However, after retiring, he took on all sorts of domestic duties alongside my mother.  And he's in charge of cooking on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  And this soup is his signature go-to when feeding a crowd.  Can't say how much I love and admire the man who makes this soup.   Hamburger Soup
  2. Chili.  This is my Mom's go-to for a crowd.  She actually uses her Dad's recipe - and I love how she feels connected to her family through this recipe.  Again, home-canned tomato juice is used and I know she doesn't add green peppers, but I thought this one looked close.  Lots of hamburger, not too many beans, and the chili has a thin-soup consistency, perfect for soaking up with saltines or oyster crackers. Chili
  3. Danish Potato Soup.  My sister Sandi and her family lived in Denmark for a couple years and she picked up this recipe while living there.  When I did an online search, I couldn't find anything that really does it justice, so you'll just have to take my word for it that it is simple, and delicious.  You cook diced potatoes (not too tiny - they will remain as intact pieces) in vegetable broth.  You add some garlic and cream.  The end.  I told you it was simple!  Salt and pepper to taste - there, that's all I'm going to do to complicate the recipe. The soup sounds overly simple, but it is amazing! It's only fitting since my sister (as are all of my sisters) is an amazing person who manages to do wonderful things while staying true to the priority of 'simplify'.
  4. Creamy Chicken Noodle.  My sister Ang has a go-to soup and it's an easy but crowd-pleasing creamy chicken noodle soup.  I love how it comes together so quickly and can feed you and your neighbor.  That is the kind of personality she is - always quick to help in any way she can.   Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
  5. Fruit Soup. Another sister Kris loves fruit soup and we all rejoice when she brings it family dinners.  Not only is she a culinary wonder, but I also have soup bowls from her.  She's a talented potter (among other things) and I think of her as I serve almost any soup in her gorgeous pottery.  Chilled Strawberry Soup
  6. Zuppa Toscana.  My niece Abby is culinary fiend and her favorite soup is this spicy, creamy Italian dish.  I love to watch as cooking skills are transferred to the next generation.  Zuppa Toscana
  7. Wonton Soup. I will never think of wonton soup without thinking of my son Nate.  When he was 8, the first thing wanted to cook for dinner was wonton soup.  It soon became his signature and a few months later, he offered wonton soup on the menu of his 'Nate Cafe'.  This summer tradition was passed on to his sister and still every summer there is usually one day where you can get lunch in our backyard (ordered off a menu) for the price of food donations that go to the local food pantry.  I have to say that I was skeptical of my son's choice of wonton soup on a hot June day, but it was a big hit and he still makes it every couple of months on his weekly night to cook. By the way, he adds some slices of peeled ginger to the broth and omits the rice wine vinegar. Wonton Soup
  8. French Onion.  This is one of my daughter Emma's favorite soups.  She is an onion lover and I wish I could eat onions the way she does with abandon.  If I had a different gut - this soup would be on my menu every month!  French Onion Soup
  9. Tomato Mac.  I couldn't find an image for this one, but luckily I found lots of links to recipes of people who lived in Logan and love the Tomato Mac soup from Juniper Inn Takeout.  I was given a recipe similar to this one by my favorite boss of all time - Adrian.  Ade taught me more than skills related to the job and I love her for that.  I miss Logan and that fun, short window of time in my life when I worked as a student at USU's computer services and ate lots of delicious food with some of my favorite people.  The best food evokes good memories.  Tomato Mac Soup
So that is my list.  It was longer than I anticipated, but once I started thinking about it - so many people and such good food started flooding my memory-gates.  I truly believe that the best food is inextricably linked to good people and good memories.  So embrace soup season, and be one of those people that others will remember each time they break out the soup pot.